x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ahead of World Cup, fans complain about scramble signal on BeIn Sports

Narrow black boxes with codes have been appearing on viewers' television screens during football matches. It is reportedly to deter piracy.

The team at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr prepare for the big kick-off. Fans from all over the world are expected at the specially erected fanzone. Mona Al Marzooqi/ The National
The team at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr prepare for the big kick-off. Fans from all over the world are expected at the specially erected fanzone. Mona Al Marzooqi/ The National

ABU DHABI // Fans trying to watch live World Cup football are likely to find the action obscured by black anti-piracy boxes popping up on the screen.

The rectangular bars containing a printed code disrupted viewing of live Premier League football from England for much of the season, and are expected to continue during the World Cup.

The disruption is the latest debacle to befall beIN Sports, the hapless Qatari broadcaster that holds the Middle East rights to most high-profile sports events.

Fans, already angry after encryption changes this year left many without a service, are now furious. Many fear a repeat of the chaos during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when beIN Sports – then called Al Jazeera – failed to show the opening match.

“Plain and simple, having a black box with random letters in it appear on screen in the middle of a game is distracting and seriously gets in the way of the action,” said Greg Moore, a British resident of Dubai. “It can appear anywhere.

“The service providers here, Etisalat and du, must start acting in subscribers’ interests and demand a better service and explanation from beIN Sport.

“Look at other pay-per-view services around the world – do any of them put their customers through on-screen suffering of this anti-piracy measure? The answer is no.”

“So I guess the real question is why are beIN Sports subscribers in the region paying over the odds for their TV sport and in return getting such a dismal service?” Mr Moore said.

“In most countries worldwide the World Cup is free-to-view, like the Olympics, so that makes paying to watch it here even harder to swallow. Let’s not forget what happened last time around for World Cup 2010, when beIN Sports, or Al Jazeera as it was then called, wasn’t even able to get the first game on air.

“Let’s hope they get their act together this time and if games do go to extra-time and even penalties, let’s just hope they keep the transmission going, unlike the Aviva Premiership rugby final a few weeks back, when the transmission just stopped.”

Murali Rao, an Indian who has lived in the UAE for six years, has had the same black bar appear on his television.

“It has been appearing on our screen almost every game throughout the season,” he said. “BeIN Sports had the whole season to take action, but none has been taken. It is pathetic considering the amount we pay for good service, not all EPL games are shown, only selected, and it comes with a black box as well.

“It is distracting, it is on the middle of the screen. TV channels always make sure the ball is on the centre of the screen. So, we’ll be guessing half the time about what the player’s doing. Considering I’ll be paying an extra Dh450 to just watch the World Cup, that black box should never appear.”

A spokesman for du said: “In response to our customers who have been enquiring about the black box that has appeared on their screen while watching beIN Sports channels, we can clarify that this is a precaution taken by beIN Sports to avoid pirated signals.

“This comes directly from the broadcaster source to scramble any attempts made to pirate the channel signal.”

BeIN Sports and Etisalat refused to comment.

ksinclair@thenational.ae